Zuckerberg, Obama and Stewart are advocates for immigration reform; they believe undocumented people are a class of people that we treat poorly, and America must overhaul its immigration policies. Along with Bill Gates and Reid Hoffmann, Zuckerberg is part of the blue-chip immigration reform advocacy group FWD.us, an effort spearheaded by our nation's leading tech geeks and innovators to campaign for comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama and Congress have been hard at work to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill, but their efforts have been thwarted by House Republicans whom are unwilling to compromise.
Most citizens get it: House Republicans believe the 50,000 children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador whom illegally crossed the Mexican border is due to Obama's lax border control policies; whereas, President Obama believes they are coming in order to escape prevalent gang violence and intergenerational poverty.
Both sides have made valid, reasoned points. Recently however, I watched a queue of Democrats line up on the House floor to bring HR.15 to the floor to address the humanitarian crisis at the border of Mexico, but Rep. Tom Cole refused to yield to that request. This type of politicking by extreme-right-winged House GOP members was infuriating to witness. Instead of working to pass something with bipartisan approval in the wake of a humanitarian crisis, House GOP members voted to pass a bill with changes that would increase the deportations and undo safeguards that were passed by Republican President W. Bush to protect unaccompanied minors (see the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act), which is absurd.
Thankfully, The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that most of the children arriving at the border may qualify for protections under international law, but I am left asking the same rhetorical question Jon Stewart asked to those in favor of deporting minors currently in custody on The Daily Show: "What the F$&* is wrong with you?"
Instead of sitting and eating Mexican food, drinking cervezas and seemingly celebrating a political victory against President Obama, House GOP members should realize that immigrants are still people. Immigrant kids are still kids. This is why I am proud that Governor Patrick wants to host immigrant children in Massachusetts because it is estimated by the White House that 90,000 children will have entered into the US illegally by September. Yes, we must secure our borders; we must protect our sovereignty; we must protect against terrorism, and we must also act with our hearts and heed Melinda Gate's advice.
In her 2014 commencement speech at Stanford University, Melinda Gates said:
"When I talk with mothers I meet during my travels, there's no difference between what we want for our children. The only difference is our ability to provide it to our children. So -- what accounts for that difference? Bill and I talk about this with our own kids around the dinner table. Bill worked incredibly hard, and he took risks and he made sacrifices for success. But there's another essential ingredient of success, and that is luck. Absolute and total luck.
When were you born? Who are your parents? Where did you grow up? None of us earned these things. These things were given to us. So -- when we strip away all of our luck and our privilege and we consider where we'd be without them, it becomes somewhat much easier to see someone who is poor and say that could be me. And -- that's empathy. Empathy tears down barriers and opens up whole new frontiers for optimism."
As Americans, we are privileged. I live in Boston and recently visited the Irish Famine Memorial, which reminded me that we are a country of immigrants. America is the land of the free, because our founding fathers were immigrants whom experienced and escaped persecution. We live in a country divided by political ideologies, but not one in which bombs kill innocent people on a daily basis. We live in a country where citizens can shout, scream and detest their government, not one in which we are shot for fighting against injustice.
In college, I dated a female whom was once considered an illegal immigrant, but she received her green card before graduating from high school. Interestingly enough, she was her high school valedictorian and received a full scholarship to Boston University. I remember: When she visited her home country, gang members walked into the movie theaters with machine guns and robbed everyone. She told me there existed bars on windows and numerous gates around her relatives home, and -- Women would not walk or drive at night for fear of rape. I worried every-single-day she was there on holiday. This is only but one story, but I have heard many stories from my college friends.
At a Shabbat dinner, my Jewish friends explained how their grandparents escaped Nazis persecution and settled in Mexico, for their grandparents wanted their families to have a better life. All persons seek a better life for themselves and their (future) families. This is why I empathize with undocumented persons and their plight.
Many Americans, including House GOP members and some of my friends, frown upon vulnerable undocumented persons because they have never experienced the same hardship. I have both experienced and witnessed hardship; I was lucky though and had significant support systems that led to my success. In 2011, I founded Foster Skills -- an organization that supports vulnerable foster youth -- because 66 percent of foster kids will be homeless, in jail or dead by 19 years-old. And -- that is insane!
As CEO, I remember: A teenage women -- let's call her Maria -- asked to volunteer to help mentor at-risk foster kids, some who entered into the foster care system because their parents were deported. Later, I learned that Maria was an undocumented person and told her she couldn't volunteer, but I offered to introduce her to my lawyer friends at Fragomen whom could provide advice.
Maria graduated from high school with high honors and was doing odd jobs just to pay for her community college tuition. She was willing to volunteer her time because she wanted to help vulnerable American children. Maria genuinely cared about them. I am proud to be an American, but I am not proud of how we treat vulnerable undocumented persons seeking a better life like they are persona non gratar.
Senator Cory Booker in his commencement speech at Yale University said, "No matter how great your dreams, no matter how great your destiny, the biggest thing you can do in any day is a small act of kindness ... Be love, be kindness, be justice." House GOP members should listen to Booker and follow Governor Patrick's lead. It's difficult to love when we are rigid, selfish and unwilling to compromise.
We do business abroad. We poach professors to come to our country. We grant asylum to fugitives and set them up to go to NYU (see Hilary Clinton's talk during the 2014 Aspen Institute Idea's Conference). We need to make hard choices and not be afraid to live in love. Instead of treating immigrant children poorly, let us love them. Let us welcome them to our family, like we would a new relative, a newborn baby. Let us follow Maria's lead and help them just because we have a big heart.